What are the Colorado Statute of Limitations?
The statute of limitations is best understood as a filing deadline for your Colorado personal injury lawsuit. If you do not file your personal injury lawsuit before the statute of limitations expires, your lawsuit will almost certainly be dismissed. This is true regardless of how legally sound or compelling your lawsuit is.
In most personal injury lawsuits, the statute of limitations begins to run (or “toll”) on the day you were injured – in other words, the date of your accident. As explained below, there are only a few limited exceptions to this general rule.
Personal Injury Statute of Limitations
Like all other states, Colorado has instituted a series of statutes of limitations that can be raised to bar claims filed in court after a certain period of time has passed.
|Type of Claim||Statute of Limitation|
|Injury to Person||2 yrs. §13-80-102 (a); 3 yrs. §13-80-101(n) if from use or operation of a motor vehicle|
|Injury to Personal Property||3 yrs. §13-80-101(n) if from use or operation of a motor vehicle|
|Professional Malpractice||Vet: 2 yrs. §13-80- 102(1)(c); Medical: 2 yrs. upon discovery §13-80-102|
Although this may seem unfair, especially when a person is severely injured in a crash and is perhaps unable to immediately seek legal aid, these laws were put in place to ensure timely filing of claims.
Keeping track of legal deadlines and time limits can be difficult, so if you were injured in a crash caused by another person’s negligence, it is crucial to contact an experienced personal injury attorney who is well-versed in state law, filing deadlines, and court procedures.
General Negligence Statute of Limitations
A statute of limitations is essentially the deadline by which an injured party must file a lawsuit in court.
There are, however, a number of different statutes of limitations that vary depending on the type of claim. For instance, actions related to negligence, medical malpractice, and trespass must all be brought within two years of the date of the event.
This means that if a store owner failed to clean up a mess on the floor and an elderly woman slipped, fell, and broke her hip, she would be required to file the suit in court within two years of the date that she fell.
If she failed to bring the claim in time, her case could be permanently barred and she could lose out on the opportunity to collect compensation for her medical bills and other losses. In some situations, an exception may be recognized for mental incompetency, age (under 18), and when the injured party learned of the negligence.
Car Accident Statute of Limitations
In Colorado, car crash claims are covered by a different statute of limitations, which requires plaintiffs who suffered personal injury or property loss as the result of a car crash to file suits against the responsible parties within three years of the date of the crash.
However, if the crash caused someone’s death the statute of limitations will be reduced to two years. Again, failing to file a claim within this time period could result in the plaintiff’s case being permanently barred.
Exceptions to the Standard Statute of Limitations in Colorado
Depending on the facts of your case, there may be other methods by which you can extend the standard statute of limitations.
If you were a minor – that is, under the age of 18 – at the time of your accident, the statute of limitations may be extended in your favor. The same may be true if you were disabled or mentally ill at the time of your accident.
Further examples are, if you were injured as a result of the actions of a public entity, such as the State of Colorado or a city, or their employees.
There are specific written notices that must be provided to specific departments within those public entities within 182 days of being injured. If you were injured by the federal government or one of its employees, then different rules and notices apply.
The exceptions to the general rules to the statutes of limitations can result in you losing your personal injury claim and it is always highly recommended that you consult with an attorney regarding the applicable statute of limitations and possible exceptions immediately.
Exceptions to the standard statute of limitations are narrow and you should never count on them applying in your case.
The Discovery Rule Statute of Limitations
The Discovery Rule is often referred to as the “discovery of harm”. Colorado recognizes the “discovery of harm” exception to the standard statute of limitations in personal injury cases.
The “discovery of harm” rule extends the deadline to file a personal injury lawsuit in situations where an injured person had no knowledge of either:
- The injury itself; or
- The fact that the defendant’s actions may have caused the injury.
In these situations, the statute of limitations does not begin to run until the injured person initially discovers, or should have reasonably discovered, their injury or the nature of their injury.
An example of the “discovery of harm” exception to the standard statute of limitations is useful here:
In 2010, she developed a rare form of cancer. In 2012, a scientific study revealed a link between a material contained in the frying pan and the rare form of cancer Patty contracted.
The court allows Patty to sue the manufacturer in a products liability suit in 2013 despite the fact that two years had passed from the date of her injury, because Patty did not discover the exact nature of the harm she suffered until the scientific study was released.
It is important to understand that a reasonableness standard applies to the “discovery of harm” exception to the standard statute of limitations. This is one of the reasons why the discovery of harm rule rarely applies in personal injury lawsuits involving accidents.
Courts generally expect people who are involved in serious accidents to visit a doctor in order to determine whether they were hurt. In most cases, doctors can identify whether an injury occurred in an accident and will recommend an appropriate course of treatment.
Contact a Colorado Personal Injury Attorney
If a doctor has told you that you were injured in an accident, the statute of limitations has probably started to run.
If you believe that you have a valid personal injury lawsuit but are concerned that the statute of limitations may have expired, you should contact a personal injury lawyer right away to make sure that you will not be prevented from filing a lawsuit.
Disclaimer: Information provided on this site is NOT formal legal advice. It is generic legal information. Under no circumstances should the information on this site be relied upon when deciding the proper course of a legal action. Always get a formal case evaluation from a licensed attorney if you think you might have a personal injury lawsuit.